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Falcons CB Robinson keeps his role in perspective

By George Henry

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 5:24 p.m. MDT

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Dunta Robinson's second year with Atlanta is much like his first.

The $22 million cornerback has earned more notoriety for his physical style of play than his coverage skills. Though he doesn't mind having a tough image, Robinson would appreciate a few more interceptions. He has no picks this season and just one in 23 games with the Falcons, including last season's playoff loss to Green Bay.

"Of course, you'd like to be all over the field making a ton of plays," Robinson said Thursday, "but it's just not presented right now."

When Robinson signed a six-year free-agent contract with Atlanta in March 2010, the Falcons introduced him as the shut-down cornerback they desperately lacked in the secondary.

Many fans might have expected more interceptions for such a high-priced player, but coach Mike Smith says Robinson has filled his role with aplomb.

For Smith, it's simple: In the Falcons' 4-3 defense, the eighth-year veteran is doing exactly what he's asked to do.

Brent Grimes, who starts at left cornerback, has more chances at interceptions because opponents continue to challenge him in hopes he will jump routes. Grimes was targeted as often as any cornerback in the NFL last year, but the former practice squad player turned those chances into a Pro Bowl season.

Meanwhile, Robinson goes about his business in blanketing the right side and providing strong run support.

"This year, I'm not even sure what the (targeted) numbers say, but Dunta has been an integral part of what we're trying to do," Smith said. "He fits very well into our scheme."

Smith has strongly defended Robinson's hard style during their season and a half together.

Games against Philadelphia the last two years included a pair of penalized hits in which Robinson was flagged for leading with his helmet. In a Week 6 loss last season, Robinson was fined $25,000 for a hit on DeSean Jackson that caused concussions for both players.

In a Week 2 victory this year, Robinson's hit on Jeremy Maclin resulted in another $25,000 fine.

Robinson doesn't seem to mind that his reputation might have changed in some people's minds.

He's only following the same approach that led Houston to draft him No. 10 overall in 2004 out of South Carolina. Robinson will not apologize for playing his position hard.

"I've always, always been a physical presence," he said. "I've always been a physical corner and that's what got me drafted at the No. 10 spot, you know? So that part of my game hasn't changed. I made the same physical plays in college and for years in Houston."

When the Falcons (4-3) return from their bye Sunday at Indianapolis (0-8), Robinson expects another tough game despite the absence of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. He believes Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and running back Joseph Addai are still capable of hurting opponents.

Robinson certainly won't miss Manning. In the 10 games he played for Houston against Indianapolis, the Texans went 1-9.

"Yeah, but it's certainly not a game that's going to be given to us," Robinson said. "We're going to still to go out there and play ball because those guys have a lot of pride. The most dangerous team is the team that doesn't have a win because they're hungry to win a football game."

Atlanta still has plenty of loose ends to tie up defensively. Despite ranking seventh against the run and tied for seventh with nine interceptions, the Falcons are 27th in net passing yards per attempt, 26th in third-down efficiency and 25th in sacks per passing attempt.

And Robinson would love to make a couple of big, clean plays in the secondary.

"The rules have changed a little bit, so now it's looked upon maybe as a dirty play, but I've seen dirty players," Robinson said. "Dirty players are cheap-shot artists. To me, that's what dirty players are considered to be. I've seen dirty players trying to poke your eye, gouge your eye and do a lot of things under the pile and stuff like that, but it's not something I get wrapped up in. This is the way I've played since I first stepped on a football field."

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